Buffalo had a three-point lead. The ball. The momentum. And there was just over two minutes left.
Or in Bills-terms, time for another meltdown. Not so. This time, Buffalo went for the jugular.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick called an audible at the line and air-mailed a 51-yard touchdown to Terrell Owens. T.O. mocked Joey Porter’s dirt-kicking celebration, players leaped in all directions, Ralph Wilson Stadium exploded and maybe — just maybe — a new era dawned.
Aggressiveness reigned in Buffalo’s 31-14 win over the Miami Dolphins Sunday.
“Our thing this week was to be aggressive and attack and dictate,” said interim coach Perry Fewell,” and Ryan saw something where he could be aggressive on, and he got the green light and let it go.”
On Sunday, the Bills played out of character, they took a sharp turn away from demises past. In their previous three losses, the Bills were outscored 54-0 in the fourth quarter. The lack of a killer’s instinct has doomed Buffalo since week one in New England. Clearly, the team reflected Dick Jauron's bland coaching style.
Under the fiery Fewell, the Bills stayed in attack mode.
--- Fewell opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from Miami’s 36 at the end of the third quarter. Fitzpatrick ran for eight yards and the Bills knotted the game at 14 four players later.
--- With the game still tied at the 3:40 mark, Fewell attempted a 56-yarder. Rian Lindell, hardly a long-ball kicker, drilled it.
--- Rather than milk the clock, Buffalo slammed its foot on the pedal with Fitzpatrick’s aforementioned bomb to T.O.
--- And after a Donte Whitner interception gave the Bills the ball back with 1:37 left, Fewell refused to relent. Rather than take a knee, he called Fred Jackson’s number. And Jackson, who torched the Dolphins for 116 total yards, scored his second touchdown of the day.
The Jauron era is safely in the Bills’ rearview mirror, miles and miles awa. With playoff hopes all but evaporated, Fewell somehow got the Bills to play with renewed energy. Renewed passion. Re-Fewelled hope.
An edge was evident. As the Bills and Dolphins filed through the tunnel after the game, the age-old rivalry was alive and well. Left tackle Jonathan Scott and Miami linebacker Channing Crowder jawed at each other loudly. Other Fins players joined in. Scott didn’t back down, talking back until the two teams split into their locker rooms.
Bad blood is clear. More importantly, a new energy is clear. Confidence is (somehow) oozing out of a 4-7 team.
“There was definitely an exchange of words when we took that lead,” Scott said. “I could sense the frustration. A lot of people on the defensive side were running their mouth after we gave it to them. They’re going to be gunning for me next year and I’m so ready for it.”
“If they have anything negative to say to me or do to me, bring it on.”
Keying the 24-point fourth quarter assault was Fitzpatrick, Jackson, Owens and a rejuvenated offense. Fitzpatrick played a gritty game, rushing for 50 yards and passing for 246 more with two total touchdowns. Jackson proved again that he deserves to be the team’s unquestioned No. 1 back, completely outperforming Marshawn Lynch (six yards on three carries).
Working behind a maligned line, Jackson picked and fired through narrow holes with authority for 4.9 yards per carry.
The changed is in attiude. Fitzpatrick assured that Fewell has indeed given the Bills a jolt of adrenaline. Practices are more intense. Players are held accountable. Fewell is speaking his mind more.
“He has brought some energy, excitement, passion,” Fitzpatrick said.
Maybe the season is lost in the standings. Buffalo is two games out of a cluttered playoff picture — several blown fourth-quarters the reason. Further, it will be difficult for Fewell to win the coaching job outright. The Bills will apparently flirt with every big name possible before courting any assistant.
But for now, it’s all about slowly reshaping the team’s image. For more than three years, Buffalo imploded in crunch time. Not Sunday. The Bills set the tempo against a superior opponent.
“I just think the players had an attitude,” Fewell said. “We’ve been talking about finishing. We’ve been practicing to finish offensively, defensively and special teams-wise, and that’s what we did today.”
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